the opposite game

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the opposite game

Remember that game? It was popular with kids who also liked the phrase, “Stop hitting yourself.”

Well, calling the school holidays HOLIDAYS is kind of like that – the exact opposite, and sometimes painful.

But this time we had mum come to visit, ie. I did less housework but more sightseeing and it was mostly painful to our feet.

Luuk and I took advantage rather deftly and went away for the weekend the day after she arrived. Mum’s a trooper. In fact, within an hour of her arrival she was being schooled in French by Louis. The kids have a skill for giving adults books in languages they don’t speak. I just make up stories that match the pictures of the dutch ones.

Anyway, so Mum’s visited us in Paris a few times before, but this time we were both feeling a bit more determined to see some of the sights she’s missed in the past. Rather than hang around Antony with the kids. With the dregs of jet lag still doing their nasty thing, we started with something little: Saint Sulpice –

saint sulpice

 

 

The kids took a lot of photographs, which turns out is a great way to keep them entertained while we look at stained glass and frescoes. But we still didn’t stay long.

autumn on the seine

And then on Wednesday we upped our game and did the Louvre.

kids at the louvre

I’ve only been once before, and this time we covered a lot of ground. The Richelieu wing, which we didn’t even go in last time, was great. The kids respond really well to the sculptures… when they’re not running around and getting in trouble with the security guards.

Elena at the Louvre

After that we needed a lazy day, and Thursday is market day in Antony, so we did that too. The kids enjoyed having Gran around.

cricket in franceGran and Louis playing cricket.

morning tea with gran

 

 

 

Morning tea at the park.

On the weekend we drove out to Giverny, to visit Monet’s gardens.

elena at monet's gardensElena and the water lilies.

louis and gran and giverny Louis and Gran, talking about the flowers.

louis running around at monet's garden

Of course, the good thing about gardens is that the kids can run around. Not so much in the house, so we did a quick dash through that.

And then drove off to find a picnic spot. Luuk had done his research (of course) and found a chateau we could visit nearby – a proper ruined castle type thing rather than just a fancy house.

chateau gaillard

elena and the sheep, near Les Andeleys

No picnic spot is complete without some wandering sheep for the kids to watch.

elena at chateau gaillardElena climbing around the ruins of Chateau Gaillard.

We were all exhausted after that so stopped in Les Andeleys for a coffee before driving home.

Mum powered-on, the next day, and did Versailles, while the rest of us lazed about. I had writers’ group. The kids napped.

I got a babysitter for for the Monday, so that Mum and I could do some stuff in Paris without dragging the kids about. We started at Montmartre and went on a bit of a walking tour, of our own design, going past the cemetary, the moulin rouge and the moulin… ah, the other one… and then up to the art market. We walked down the steps from Sacre Coeur and then went to the fabric shops.

Holy cow, the fabric shops! Even I shopped up large, and I don’t even sew (but someone’s getting material for christmas).

We grabbed lunch and then found our way to the Marais and only got a little lost on our way to Victor Hugo’s house.

maison de victor hugo!That’s me, outside Victor Hugo’s house. The plaque is very faded but there it is!

We wandered around, looking for yummies for Luuk’s birthday and any cute shops we fancied. Stumbled across a couple of thrift stores that would make certain people I know salivate. Floors and floors of cramped motley messes of clothes and accessories… I tried to take photos but they all look awful. And we didn’t end up buying anything. I’ll have to go back another day, when I have more time and energy.

One last gem we found before we headed home – this old cloister.

art in a cloister, in the maraisWhich was hosting a random but cool art exhibition.

Mum packed in a few more Paris sights but me and the kids saved our energy for the Salon du Chocolat.

paris in chocolat

Elena, enjoying the Salon du Chocolat

It was chocolate tasting to the n’th. Holy cow. Mum quickly started saying no thanks. I held out a little longer. The kids didn’t say no at all, not once. My best efforts to get them to eat something-anything-else was a waffle.

Then Mum had to head back to NZ and that left only a day or two of holidays.

not-spider cookies

We made a meagre attempt at pirate costumes and spider cookies for halloween.

More chocolate? Well, yes, actually. We ate so much chocolate at the Salon du Chocolat that we didn’t feel like chocolate and seriously under-shopped! Who’d have thought?

So it wasn’t a HOLIDAY of the restful and rejuvenating kind, but it was great. Visitors give us a great injection of make-the-most-while-you’re-in-paris, that is just not maintainable most of the time.

That said, this weekend we’re going away to do something restful AND uniquely-french: staying at a country house in the Loire with some Brits!


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The 100 Days Project

This year was the fourth year I’ve participated in the 100 Days Project. It is a creative exercise in which participants repeat the same artistic (little-a artistic, broad definition of art) process or task each day for 100 days. This is definitely of the quantity-over-quality-leads-to-quality school of thought.

I’ve done a variety of visual and written tasks in the past, and this year I combined the two in 100 lies we tell kids.

This year was the first year I’ve participated in the Day 100 Show. In fact, this year, there are three of these exhibitions. The Europe one was just for one day, in IJsselstein, in the Netherlands, but the Wellington show is on all week and the Auckland show is this coming weekend, so if you can get along, have a look at all the incredible collections people have put together over the past 100 days.

Day 100 show, Europe

The Day 100 Show, in Europe, at the IJsselstein Library, last Saturday.

100 lies we tell kids

My exhibit.

IJsselstein 100 day show

The ‘ninos’, the eyes, a few monkeys, and at the end the 5 year old twins’ ‘Hearts and Houses’ exhibit.

100 collages

100 collages.

100 eyes

100 eyes.

100 ninos

100 Ninos.

There were a dozen or so exhibitors and we managed to video chat, eventually, with Emma Rogan, the kiwi who started the whole project up a few years ago.

handy to have tech support on site.

In the foreground: Luuk, being tech support, and figuring out how to get around Emma’s hotel wifi restrictions… which did eventually work.

In the background: 100 octopuses!

My absolute favourite were the blind contour drawings, a style thing I’m definitely going to have to try.

blind contour drawings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This artist drew all sorts of things but the drawings themselves were all kinds of weird and wonderful.

pumpkins and giraffes

 

 

These giraffes were probably my favourite.

This the first time I’ve participated in an art exhibition and I absolutely loved it. Artistic community for the win, frankly, and going out for drinks and dinner and quadri-lingual conversation afterwards = all good. Bit tiring but GOOD.

The whole 100 days thing brings out some interesting stuff about artistic process and whatever it takes to call one’s self an artist. Some of the exhibitors displayed their work in day-by-day-order and I definitely noticed how the first half are kind of steady, good but perhaps a bit predictable, and then there’s a hitch in the middle, sometimes the quality isn’t so strong, motivation is low, perhaps a day or two get missed, but the second 50 days are really interesting. Things get a bit desperate, but creativity really comes into play. Those off-the-wall, bold ideas, which are hard to feel sure about at the time, come out, and often they’re the best bits of all. I’m very aware, as a writer, than when I’m working on a given scene I’m rarely certain of the quality of my work, and even if I’m certain, I’m not objective. I’m often wrong about the strength of my writing when I’m drafting it, but later I can see more clearly.

This project is a great way of gaining some confidence as an artist, to trust your own gut and try things, not expecting everything to work well, but knowing that good work comes out of LOTS OF WORK.

Luuk and I had the weekend on our own in the Netherlands. Mum arrived from NZ last Thursday and bravely babysat the kiddos for the weekend, despite jetlag. She’s staying for the holidays so we’ll be doing lots of Paris sights and perhaps Luuk and I will nab another couple of nights out with our handy live-in babysitter around. Louis is off school, though Elena’s nursery goes on as per usual, so Mum and I will have the kids with us most of the time – tomorrow, at the Louvre, and Thursday perhaps Montmartre.

As usual, I’m writing/editing in all the down-time – the kids are napping now, and whenever they’re busy playing I’ll snatch some words. I’m editing one project, though I got an editor’s report back on another this morning. A third is sitting in a couple of slush piles, and a fourth is probably a quarter of the way through draft 1 in my journal, perhaps ready to go for nanowrimo. Which may or may not happen, depending on my editing progress and the speed with which people get through their slush piles.

I have to say, it is rather good to have the 100 days project behind me. My photos and paintings and words from the project might, one day, boil down to make a fun coffee-table style book, but no mad rush there. It could make a good Christmas present, I suppose, but I just don’t see it happening in the next month or two. So if you want to read all the lies, have a scroll through my 100 days project page, here.


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busy somethings and busy nothings

We had a mad couple of weeks, and then things calmed down and the quiet is a different kind of mad.

First, the mad weeks – the busy doing something bit. A kiwi friend came to town and so I played tour guide, which I love. We walked our feet off. The first day we went to Versailles and (finally) saw the Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s wee (not actually tiny) village.

too early for the trianon

The Trianon doesn’t open till midday – consider yourselves warned – so we wandered around the lake and took in another angle on the palace and gardens before we went into the Trianon.

the grand trianonThe grand trianon was like a summer house, a cottage if you will. But giant.

the petit trianonAnd then there’s the petit trianon, which is small, I suppose, but set among vast gardens.

marie antoinette's farm

And beyond that is the village that Marie Antoinette had made, so that she could experience authentic french village life… yep.

exploring marie antoinette's village at versailles

Me and Elena at the little village.

The kids were exhausted long before we were done. That place is huge. It’s beside Versailles, so the very concept of huge is seriously warped.

music and fountains

Luuk took the kids home, after a fortifying ice cream, and my friend and I continued on to the palace. The fountains in the gardens were all going, and some even had music playing, so it was quite spectacular. Transporting, really. It is hard to imagine the opulence of life in this place when it was a palace.

On Monday, we went to Paris but our tired feet kept us from going far – just a lap around Notre Dame and a little of the little Ile St Louis. We stopped in at Shakespeare and Company and then had some lunch.

worn out in Paris

Elena slept through lunch.

And then we headed back to Antony in time to drop the little lady off at halte garderie.

Tuesday we were amped and organised and showed up at the Louvre just after it opened… except it didn’t open because it never does on Tuesdays. Quick change of plan, which was nervous-making given I’d forgotten my phone. Its handy-dandy maps of Paris and GPS functions are good at times like these. We winged it and found our way to Sacre Coeur, then the Amelie Cafe and the Moulin Rouge.

creme brulee at Les Deux Moulins

Creme Brulee at Les Deux Moulins

After all that traipsing about, I left my friend to find the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower by herself and took Elena to halte garderie. I took the afternoon off.

In the evening, we went to see La Belle et la Bete – Beauty and the Beast. It was brilliant. It was in French. But there’s not a lot of subtlety in musical theatre and we picked up most of the jokes.

la belle et la bete

The staging, the costumes, the music, was all brilliantly done – lavish and hilarious and even a little bit moving – when chip, the little boy who’s been trapped in a tea-cup, gets to be human again – aw. And the feast – ah! – the plates and napkins and cutlery all prancing about. The plates lit up. There were streamers shot into the audience. If you’re in Paris, and you can stretch for it – so worth seeing.

Wednesday, my friend went to the Louvre, and Louis and I hung out at the ludotheque while Elena was at halte garderie, so that was nice and chilled-out for the morning. On Thursday we stayed in Antony and went to the market. We met up with a friend of mine in the morning and another came over in the afternoon. The first was about to head off on holiday, the second was about to head off for good. It’s an expat thing, and it sucks, but it’s also very predictable. You make these friends knowing you’re only going to live in the same place for a few months or years. This particular friend is a writer and a great babysitter, so she will definitely be missed!

The next day our visitor left and the kids and I had a lazy day. Lazy was also the plan for Saturday, but it was gorgeous weather and while I’d got plenty of exercise, walking around Paris during the week, Luuk has a desk job – so it was bike ride time! We went up the hill to the coulee vert and discovered a new play ground. We came back to rest our tired muscles and then heard from Kiwi friends who used to live in Paris, but have been in Lille for a year now. They were in town, just for the night, and so we biked up the hill again to catch up with them.

Well after the kids’ bedtime, we biked back, and got home only to discover that Luuk had forgotten his back pack. So he did the hill three times on Saturday. Sunday, we felt quite a lot of sympathy for the tour de france cyclists. It was the final day of the tour and they came into Paris via a road that is only a short walk from our house.

ready for the tour de france

Waiting for the bikes.

So that was all the busy somethings. This week has been busy nothing. Halte Garderie is closed for the summer, and Elena and I are getting rather tired of each other. Louis still had the holiday program to go to, but I’ve not been well, just niggly things that mostly wear me out rather than make me feel sick. Getting out of the house and doing anything interesting with the kids has just seemed like a huge effort. Hopefully I’ll get better, get my energy back, because next week Louis isn’t going to the holiday program and I will have them both to myself, all day, every day.

To think, once upon a time I thought being a full-time mum and home-maker was right up my alley. Turns out, I have a very small capacity for playing with very small children. I run out of ideas, and patience, horribly fast. A few hours, a morning, is fine, but then I’m ready for some time to myself.

Two of them, together, can be great if they want to do the same thing, together, and happily. The playdoh colours are all mixed together, but hey, they’re happy. I can join in, then wander away and do some housework or a blog post, then peal the colours apart and put the playdoh away and organise lunch. It can be relaxed, but it tends to go that way for just a fraction of the day. And there tends to be rather too much television on.

‘George of the Jungle’ is the current favourite. I do an excellent jungle-man yell.


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Underground sights from above

Canal Saint Martin was a gorgeous walk, peppered with interesting sights. We haven’t been in Paris so long that we can’t take visitors to places which are also new to us. This area has the added bonus of being away from the hustle and bustle of the more touristique sights in Paris.

Fountain at Republique

The fountain at République.

The canal goes underground from Bastille to République and we learned that lesson the hard way: last time we started at Bastille and went the wrong way. But this time we took the metro all the way to where the canal comes up above the pavement again, saving our legs for walking along the actual canal.

First stop, however, was a flea market. These dwell on the footpaths and clog the walk-ways with everything from expensive antiques to utter trash… But I picked up a chunky glass vase for one euro! Luuk’s cousins were scouting for a record player but the old ones were no good and the good ones weren’t very old…

Alors, on va au canal:

Lock on Canal St Martin, Paris

Just as we arrived, two boats were being lowered in a lock. We saw several more boats and locks, some times together, as we made our way.

Dutch boy, Dutch boat, French Canal

Louis walked some of it, but his wee bike wasn’t much use on the rough cobbles, so Luuk carried him a lot. I wrestled the push chair, not too bad on the cobbles but the paths can be far from accessible… Lots of breaks, curbs, obstacles. And then there are the metro stations, many of which have neither lift or escalator. So we get to do weights with our cardio… needless to say, we were worn out and in great need of an ice cream once we reached Paris Plage, nearly at the end of the canal.

Today, the kids have a lovely babysitter and I’m off to Paris on my own – well, to meet a friend. We will have lunch, explore a cemetery, and talk French. This particular cemetery is gargantuan and numerous famous people lie there.

Pere-Lachaise cemetary, Paris

I was pleasantly surprised in that it is beautifully shady, ideal for a hot day like today. We meandered among the old oaks and jumble of graves, some near new and others falling to pieces

grave with crank - Pere-Lachaise cemetary, Paris

Strange and haunting epitaphs line the paths. Beneath a wrought iron frame, this grave has its own crank. For raising the dead, or lowering them? Hm.

Pere-Lachaise cemetary, Paris

And then there are the celebs… Edith Piaf, Proust, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison and many more.

here lies Oscar Wilde

Here lies Oscar Wilde, ou peut être, ici réside Oscar Wilde.

How’s that for a theme. The canal, and the graves, are predominantly underground, but I saw the bits above. And that’s enough for me.


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playing tourist in my own town

Okay, so Paris is hardly my town, but we’ve been here 18 months and we still play the tourist bit on occasion. We are tourists with a twist.

Twisted tourists, if you like.

On Friday I met my friend Liz in Paris for our weekly french conversation lesson. We met at Chatelet-Les Halles, a metro station which, I read somewhere, is the largest in the world. It is two metro stations, technically, and a pain in the butt to traverse. But fortunately I didn’t have to do that.

Once we found each other (hiding from the sun in two different air-conditioned shops and with my phone not cooperating with the cell towers…) we went for a walk.

Liz lived in this part of Paris for twenty years and is great at showing me all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies. We conversed in French, occasionally falling back on English, and did a little intensive with a historical info sign about one particular building’s architecture and art. Trés intéressant.

Then we continued to the gardens at the Palais Royal, and from there to ice cream (more hiding from the sun, but I did have Elena in the pushchair, getting a months worth of vitamin-D… we weren’t just being wimps.)

Pétanque, Jardins de Palais Royale Pétanque, at Palais-Royal. How very Paris.

sunbathing around a fountain, palais royale Speaking of very Paris, reading and sunbathing around a fountain. C’est ça. They’re all sun-addicts. And where better than the city-provided chairs in all the parks, feet up on the edge of a fountain? Quel Parisien.

Opera, ParisThat’s Opéra hiding in the background. Closest I’ve been yet. Plenty more to see in this city.

Post-häagen-dazs, we continued to a foot-bridge over the Seine, and there we sat on a bench, and I wrote down a few new/forgotten words/phrases I’d come across in our conversations.

Last stop, with a sleep-reluctant bub, was a scarf stall – all silk and 5 euro a pop! Incroyable!

I didn’t take many photos, very un-touristic of me… incroyable, vraiment.

Dad visited us for the weekend. He was in Europe for business anyway and why not eh? But we were all a bit wiped out and didn’t make headway till after lunch on Saturday. We biked up to a park for a picnic lunch, and back via another park (boasting a ‘farm’ and a carousel).

Picnic lunch on bikes Picnic lunch.

footy with grandpaLouis teaching grandpa his tricks.

Sunday we joined the hordes (many of them tourists) on the Champs Elysée for the annual 14 Juillet parade – Bastille day, but no one seems to call it that. The French military, or those not busy fighting, etc., parade from the Arc de Triomphe down to Concorde. We went last year, actually, and the crowds were mad. And Elena was a month old. I was reluctant this year but knew it would be right up Dad’s tree.

So off we went.

Me, the kids and dad, 14 Juillet, Paris Dad, me and the kids, waiting for it all to begin.

Dad and Elena Dad, adoring his granddaughter. Bien-sûr.

Louis watching the parade Louis had a great view of the parade.

Elena, on grandpa's shoulders Elena was just in it for the ride.

tricolore in jet trails, over the champs elysee And here come the planes!

tricolore in jet trails, 14 July 2013

I’m no great fan of things-military in general, but it’s hard not to love this bit.

fly over, 14 Juillet, 2013

And I do like planes. I am my father’s daughter.

Watching the paradeElena and I went and sat in a cafe after the flyover and a few troops had gone by. From our seats we could see the tops of the really big trucks and tanks. But the boys had a blast, and afterward, on our search for a functioning Metro station, we witnessed a whole lot more helicopter action.

apaches at invalides, notre dame in background

Two choppers landed on the lawn at Invalides, catching us in the dust storm (we saw it coming and covered our eyes, missing the actual landing moment…). Troops in full camouflage clambered out and did a bunch of formation-y things. It was seriously cool. An Apache was hovering above, the whole time, and the towers of Notre Dame were in view beyond.

Seriously awesome.

So that was our holiday weekend. Dad had to take off on Sunday afternoon and we all flaked out in the sun, me especially.

Please note: I’m not actually complaining about the heat. It’s fabulous. But I wilt.

Happily, I wilt.


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First Birthday

Category : food

My baby girl, my only girl, my second baby, turned one a week ago.

smiley elena

First birthdays, someone told me, are about wine and cake. Sounds good to me. But no one wanted wine. Still water was popular and everyone liked the peach/tomato/mozzarella combo on toasted baguette. The giraffe cake was a hit.

A First Birthday Giraffe Cake

I used Marian Keyes’ Victoria Sandwich recipe for the sponge cake, then cut out the sides/corner to get the shape. A cake-maker friend once told me her secret for icing cut cake: freeze it. So, I iced the frozen cake with lemon butter icing then did spots/mane with chocolate icing.

I wanted a furry-look so added chocolate hail (or the Dutch version: hagel slag) and grated white chocolate. The nostril is a reese’s piece. The eye is two pieces of candied fruit, cut to shape, and a reese’s piece atop… The horns are the wafer/cookie tube things you get commonly with ice cream here. In the packet they’re called ‘cigarettes’. The ears are orange creams.

Decadence.

I’ve never had much luck with fondant icing and much prefer the taste of the messy butter/sugar stuff. So there it is. A rival to the ganache-coated monkey cake Louis got for his first birthday.

We probably had as many guests as we did for Louis’ first birthday too, which is a nice testament to how well we’ve settled here. We’ve lived in France for less than 18 months and are blessed with lots of friends. The ratio of kids to adults is, however, steadily increasing. It was chaos. I didn’t organise a single game or activity but pass the parcel with kids under three is a bit of a farce, especially outside of a solid pass-the-parcel-playing culture.

We (over)ate, (under)drank, Elena slowly but surely unwrapped her presents (party dresses, a magna doodle and an aqua doodle – brilliant), we sang and coaxed her to blow out her candle (till the breeze did the job) and then we ate some more.

slowly but surely unwrappingthe slow ripper

magna-doodle yum

a pen that’s safe to eat…

cake and song

Elena enjoying her cake…
while Louis sings her endless refrains of ‘Happy Birthday to you.’

Her actual birthday was a week ago. We had cake then too, of the regular round (lemon-yoghurt) variety.

regular cake (lemon yoghurt)

Louis and I baked that in the morning and in the afternoon, we dropped Louis at halte garderie, then Mum and I took the birthday girl to Paris.

IMG_4112En route to halte garderie.

Elena dozed while we walked around Ile de Cité, through the old flower markets, and when she woke up we had lemonade and smoothies at a very Parisian cafe before completing our tour of the island.

flower markets, ile de citeThe flower markets

elena and me in parisWaiting for our long and cool drinks.

She got a few special presents from Gran (fantastic knitted clown, difficult elephant puzzle, excellent bedtime story book) on the actual day, and our online purchase arrived on time (whew) – a trolley for pushing about.

trolley to push (and build)

She’s turned eager-walker in the last ten days-ish, so that’s good timing. She’s still very wobbly, but keen and in fact wants me to take her for a lap around the house right now, so I’ll leave this here.

 

 


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Add it to the Mix

We’ve added Mum to the mix this week. She’s been stellar at helping out with the kids, the laundry, the dishes, the babysitting… she even ironed.

And then we added two of Luuk’s cousins to our house-party, and it got a little crazy; the brief and great fun type of crazy.

I’ve been to Paris too many days in a row… something I thought I’d never say.

On Thursday morning Mum and I took the kids to walk the Promenade Plantes, a disused railway viaduct, now a walkway planted with gardens, winding from Bastille all the way to Bois de Vincenne (ie. the eastern edge of Paris.)

Louis cycling Promenade PlantesLouis cycling along Promenade Plantes, with Mum, me and Elena in tow.

On Friday afternoon, after dropping Louis off at the halte garderie, we waited a long time for the train… and then went to explore Ile de Cite. Mum particularly wanted to visit the old flower markets. We cooled off with a pomme myrtle (apple blueberry) smoothie and Elena lapped up the citronnade maison (home made lemonade).

On Saturday we headed for the Centre Pompidou, a museum of modern art which Luuk’s cousins were keen to see. We’d never been before so we all went together, taking in all the wonderful wonders and the crazier crazies.

cool cave with the cousins, at centre pompidou

A cool cave-like artwork at Centre Pompidou, and Luuk’s cousins.

shadow art at centre pompidou

Shadow art!

Paris when it sizzles

After we’d had our fill, we meandered our way from the art gallery to Ile St Louis for an icecream, and then I went to writers’ group and the others returned home. Later in the evening, Luuk and his cousins returned to Paris and met up with the post writers’ group drinks crowd. We had Sushi for dinner at 10pm. It doesn’t get much more Parisian than that.

It’s been a great few days, but I’m tired of the train, and I’m tired of making the kids take the train, at least half an hour there and half an hour back again. They’re mostly very good but it’s not easy on their attention spans. It was lovely to stay home today, venturing only to the market for groceries.

This week the 100 Days Project began, a creative venture I’ve loved being a part of the last couple of years. So, here I go again. This year I’m doing book cover design: for books I have written, am writing, will write… books I might never write. But I will design a book cover every day, for 100 days. Three down, and plenty to go, and plenty of room for improvement.

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I’m posting daily, or that’s the idea, over at It Could be a Book.


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Fug Mondays

Fug, n. A heavy, stale atmosphere, especially the musty air of an overcrowded or poorly ventilated room. Or so says the free dictionary dot com. There are other less socially sensitive definitions but this is the one I mean – it rather accurately describes the state of my head on a Monday. Not every Monday  but yesterday was a doosie.

It was an early start and then Elena sicked up – which is unusual for her – so I was a bit worried but had to get on… Louis had halte garderie from 9 and I had french lesson at 10 so I walked in between, hoping Elena would sleep in the push chair (she didn’t but I got a new diary, gorgeous pens, and new tights).

blue rose tightsAh, I love ’em. Simple pleasures eh? Speaking of pleasures, got spoiled rotten at french class. Mel was her usual brilliant hostess-self and had baby bircher mueslis for each of us, with strawberries and yogurt and fromage frais (of the caremlized apple variety!)… and then a few minutes later she brought out some brunch muffins!

bircher mueslibircher muesli, for the uninitiated, is oats soaked overnight in apple juice, and usually has some fresh/dried fruit mixed in, as well as nuts, coconut, or really anything you fancy. Fresh fruit and yoghurt on top are gorgeous – to the eyes as well as the palate!

brunch muffinsNothing gets the motivation rolling like fresh baking, eh? Well we were certainly more motivated after second breakfast but I’m not sure my brain stepped up to the plate… figuratively speaking. It was a hard lesson and then I had to dash off early to pick up Louis and felt like I’d learned nothing at all.

Which isn’t quite true. I learned that both, comment vous connaisez vous? AND comment vous vous connaisez? are correct.

Also, I learned that the reply, on se connait par l’intermédiaire de… means, we know each other through… (the new bit being the ‘through’, the ‘par l’intermédiaire’ bit.)

But, confession, I did have to check that before typing it just now. So I learned it, but I didn’t LEARN it. If you know what I mean.

Got my exercise though – an hour walking between halte-garderie and the french lesson, then a swift march to pick up Louis and then home. After all that brunch I had a salad for lunch and then put the kids to bed and tried for a nap myself (after the hand washing was done – stupid cashmere sweaters). Not a lot of sleep in the end but some is better than none. My head was heavy and when I get tired like this my whole body aches.

Finally sat down to write in the late afternoon but Elena wasn’t sleeping much and Louis was awake by then… and then Luuk let me know of a friend visiting town and we decided to invite him for dinner. My head was in no space to focus on editing but I managed to pull together something of a feast.

Really hoping to get some writing done today though. Had a few ideas while walking yesterday and revisited them in my journal this morning. But must order groceries online before getting to the novel. One day – one day! – I’ll get to focus solely on writing. But that is not this day.


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Snowy Solace

We are living in a winter wonderland. Paris in the snow! I’ve seen very little of it but I did go in to the city for writers’ group yesterday evening. The group met, not at Shakespeare and Co (who are stocktaking – no one is jealous) but at an apartment near Bastille. I tried and failed to get a photo of the monument in the snow – but you’re not missing much. It was all rather bleak.

Instead, here’s our pretty street:

 Walking home along Rue de l’Eglise.

 And that’s the Eglise (church) behind my lovely husband and miserable son.

Louis is not fond of the snow but he is fond of kicking a ball and won’t walk in the stuff unless induced in such a way.

We have a friend from New Zealand staying with us and the kids are loving getting to know her. I suspect she’s enjoying renewing the acquaintance with our cuties as well.

 Jenny went with Luuk and Louis to buy pastries for breakfast.

We went down to the market this morning, braving the snow, but the market itself was undercover and amongst the vegetables and cheeses there were other wares. Jenny resisted this marvel of a hat, but we were tempted.

Picture perfect snow flakes. (Shame about the picture quality.)

On the subject of snow, yesterday’s small stone:

curb, branch and eave
underline that – just in case you missed it – 
it snowed!

And today’s:

How many times watched, how many hearts captured, by this pair and their reluctant, inevitable affection? How many hours absorbed by this film, by the book on which it’s based? How perfect the weather for (another) five hours sedentary pleasure. “… how ardently I admire and love…”

That’s right, we are watching a rather familiar BBC miniseries this fine snow-blanketed day. Wickham is spreading his terrible lies and I’m nursing cup of coffee while Luuk gets the market cheeses and some fresh baguette ready for afternoon tea. Lazy sunday, ’tis.


  • 2

like something out of a movie

On Saturday we visited Montmarte – me, Luuk, our two wee ones, plus my sister and her husband. It was their last day in Paris and we packed in the sights… starting with Sacre Coeur.

I’ve been here once before but it was way busier this time and the scam artists were thick on the ground. One pestered Hannah until Luuk actually pushed him away. The guy had a string and we thought he was going for her engagement ring. That night Luuk looked up common scams online and apparently the trick is to tie the string around her wrist, like a bracelet, and then make her pay for it… so not diamond thieves, but dodgy nonetheless.

Hannah, Will and I walked up to the top of Sacre Coeur… not just up the hill and up all the steps to the church, but all the way up the tower to the dome.

Going up.

Ooh, it was a lot of stairs but worse than that the tower is tiny and gets smaller as you go up. Say hello to claustrophobia and dizziness: round and round and round we go.

Going down.

Actually the dizziness was worse on the way down. But at the top – wow.

After reconnecting with the ground we found Luuk and the kids in the crowd. Elena was sleeping in the backpack and Louis was practising going up and down the step of a curb. That’s right – we went to Paris without a pushchair! That’s a first. And other than Luuk’s suffering shoulders, what a success. Elena slept in the backpack and we tag-teamed carrying Louis when he didn’t want to walk. Naturally he wanted to be with Luuk all day – quite the work-out.

We walked through some of the streets of montmarte, up on the hill, including through a square full of artists working, displaying and selling their masterpieces.

We were headed toward the cafe from the movie Amelie for lunch and browsed only a little bit on the way.

The cafe from Amelie. 

Hanging out with Uncle Will and Aunty Hannah.

I took quite a few awful photos of the cafe… I’d never have picked it for a film set: very difficult to photograph well.

After lunch we got Cafe Gourmands, all around! Very Parisienne. They weren’t the best though, as far as Cafe Gourmands go. One of the items was a glass with chocolate syrup at the bottom and a whole lot of sweet cream on top.

Louis didn’t mind though.

I had to change Elena so I had a good excuse to see the toilet which features in the film… but it’s not ideal for changing a baby. Very awkward.

Next stop of our tourist blitz was the Moulin Rouge.

It pops out of nowhere – in the middle of a busy street, beside a crazy intersection, opposite a Metro station… but there it is. We didn’t go to a show but maybe one day. It’d be on my Paris Bucket List except for all the hints at disappointment I’ve heard from others. We’ll see.